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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 11/5/8

Birds of Prey, Flash, Kid Flash, ‘Mazing Man, Supergirl, and Hitman.

Employee’s Pick

Birds of Prey 71

[DC] Birds of Prey #69-75

Writer: Gail Simone
Pencilers: Ron Adrian (issues 69, 71-73), Ed Benes (issues 70 & 75). Jim Fern (issue 74), Eduardo Barreto (issue 75)

These issues are collected in Between Dark & Dawn, the third volume of Simone’s run on the title. Teenagers are dressing up as superheroes and killing themselves. Oracle wants to know why, and traces it back to an Oregonian cult. This may be my least favorite Simone BoP story, because of what it teases. Oracle has a run-in with Brainiac, who tries to turn her into some wonky techno-organic being. It’s only a tease, the threat of something horrible happening, but I’ve seen too many writers follow through on crappy ideas like that, treat them as though they’re interesting new directions to take a character. It’s scary. That’s part of the appeal of this run, though. Simone constantly knocks the characters down in ways that could cause irreparable damage, then has them climb back up, dust themselves off, and get back to living. She bends and bends, but doesn’t break, and the characters grow stronger for all the hardship.

Savant 1

Savant’s a major project. He was introduced as a villain to start Simone’s run, and now Oracle’s trying to redeem him, half because she wants to, half because she has to. She gives him a four-block area to patrol, and he hasn’t a clue what to do with it. Like Catman, Savant has no inner voice telling him not to do bad things. He might not ever be able to do more than mimic other people, do good because they say to, not because he believes it to be right.

Creote likes dudes

Issue seventy-five illustrates one of the many drawbacks to coexisting with other titles in a more or less cohesive universe. Last issue? The Birds’ HQ, the Clock Tower, was intact. This issue? Kerblooie. We’re not talking in media res, either. The explanation for there no longer being a Clock Tower is a recap of an issue of Batman. Sigh. Simone makes the best of it, taking the opportunity to upgrade the team’s gear. Ted Kord pops by to help out, and Zinda "Lady Blackhawk" Blake joins up as the team’s pilot. The backup story tells the abridged version of Zinda’s story, how she got here from WWII without aging, and how she helped the Birds land their new plane.

New-Type Books

None this week. Secret Six next week.

Back Issues

The Flash: Time Flies

[DC] The Flash: Time Flies

Writer: John Rozum
Artist: Seth Fisher

Here we have a showcase of Seth Fisher’s skill. There’s a story, too, but the best it does is not get in the way of the pretty pictures. A test pilot gets hurled into the future via the speed force, and Flash has to travel forward to save him, and by extension, the entire universe. The future is weird, but not entirely foreign, as the writer’s not half as creative as the artist. We get flying cars, numeric designations in place of names, a human head on a spidery robot body… Nothing too out there, though, except for Fisher’s designs, the architecture – things that aren’t important to the plot.

The upside is it’s all very easy to follow. A more creative writer would have wilder ideas, but they might not progress beyond that, leaving much of the intent in their head instead of on the page. This is one case where I’d rather be confused, one case where it’s all about the art. You could tell a good story, too, but there isn’t one here, so why not sacrifice coherency to give Fisher more cool stuff to draw?

'Mazing Man 7

[DC] ‘Mazing Man #7
Writer: Bob Rozakis
Pencilers: Stephen DeStefano, Fred Hembeck

Fight! Maze and the gang go to a bar, where (gasp!) conflict ensues. Maze plays the role of wet blanket, but has the courtesy to wait until the fun has had time to stretch its legs before grinding the festivities to a halt. In a reversal of last issue, a solid lead story is followed by a dreadful backup. It’s supposed to be bad – one of Denton’s comic stories written for an editor who values accessibility over quality – and it is. Having a character who’s a writer is always tricky. It’s writing what you know, but it also runs the risk of becoming selfindulgent, more exciting to you and other writers than your audience. Then there’s skill level. If he’s a good writer, how do you show that? You need to be just as good, or only show enough to keep from revealing that you aren’t. If he’s bad, as Denton, or rather his lowbrow comics work, is, it’s easier to show. It’s better, however, to tell, unless you have some purpose to showing crappy stories, like making fun of their author. I don’t find myself laughing at Denton, only feeling sorry for him, and bored.

Supergirl 4

[DC] Supergirl Vol. 3 #4
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Gary Frank

Oh, no! Supergirl’s been turned into Grodd’s bestial slave, along with most of the town. Meanwhile, the sun’s still out. Supes’ll have to get out of this herself. Too bad she’s incapable of doing anything without help, and has to rely on her archnemesis here to keep from killing her own mother. That’s the problem with supervillain team-ups. You either get infighting or someone goes soft and helps the hero. Next thing you know, your whole plan’s unraveled. Sigh, poor Grodd. He just wants to make the world into monkeys who obey only him! Why can’t you let him be?

Kid Flash 1

[DC] The Kingdom: Kid Flash
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciler: Mark Pajarillo

This is from the follow-up to Kingdom Come. There was a two-part mini-series and a few one-shots spotlighting various heroes. Something about reality being undone. This issue focuses on Iris West, daughter of Wally, and her strained relationship with her father. She’s everything Wally wanted… in a son. Her brother, Barry, on the other hand, is a huge disappointment. No interest whatsoever in becoming a hero. When Wally isn’t trying to save absolutely everyone (KC Flash is pretty screwed up), he’s scolding Barry. Pays no attention to Iris, who does everything she can to make him proud.


Hitman Vol. 2

[DC] Hitman Vol. 2: 10,000 Bullets

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: John McCrea

Tommy’s old friend, Natt the Hat, comes to visit, just as Tommy is targeted by an ace hitman-killer. This trade, collecting issues four through eight, features the debut of instant classic anti-hero Nightfist, skillful misdirection, ninja, blood, death, gore, explosions, and yeah, about ten thousand bullets. Ennis masterfully mixes comedy and tragedy, excess and subtlety to tell a tale of loose ends, friendship, revenge, and the difficulty of romancing nice ladies when you kill people for money.

Natt the Hat 1

In addition to the four-part main story, there’s the special Final Night issue, where Tommy and his hitman friends share stories about when they each came closest to death. It’s probably the best thing to come out of that crossover, not least because it has next to nothing to do with it. Anyone who picked it up in a misguided effort to collect the entire crossover got a great introduction to the book’s cast, each story telling us more about the character telling it than some authors manage in an entire series.


Birds of Prey – Skirts the edge of badness just to prove it can.
The Flash: Time Flies – Worth buying for the art alone, which is good, since the writing’s nothing special.
‘Mazing Man – Decent lead, skip the backup.
Supergirl – Grodd loves you. That is why he wants you to be a monkey. For your sake.
Kid Flash – A touching story of bad parenting.
Hitman – Motherloving magnificent.


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